Pothos Sunburn: 7 Steps to Save Your Sunburned Plant

Pothos is often recommended for houseplant beginners due to its hard-to-kill nature. But it can still get sunburnt and die.

You might think pothos sunburn only has to do with the lighting, but you’ll also need to look at some other factors for your plant to recover.

The Ideal Lighting For Pothos

First, let’s start with the correct amount of light for pothos plants. All the varieties are similar in that they’re tropical plants that, in their native habitat, are protected from the sun with a jungle tree canopy. 

You want to mimic that natural habitat by providing indirect sunlight. Avoiding prolonged direct sun. Which can usually be accomplished by placing your plant a couple feet away from an east or west-facing window. 

Also, of the 21 different pothos varieties, there are some minor differences in the lighting the plants prefer. So be sure to check your cultivar and adjust lighting accordingly. 

For example, a Baltic Blue pothos will generally be happy with a little less light than a Snow Queen pothos.

golden pothos plant under ideal lighting

Lighting That Will Cause Pothos Sunburn 

To avoid sunburnt pothos leaves, avoid locations with extended periods of direct sunlight. A little sun in the morning or evening is okay, but too much will damage the plant.

South-facing windows are wrong locations due to the risk of direct sunlight that could cause pothos sun damage. Unless you have large roof overhangs that block the sun.

Identifying a Sunburned Pothos vs. Other Problems

The tell-tale signs of sunburn on pothos are when the tops of the leaves develop white patches, yellowish coloring, curling, and then turn brown and crispy. The leaves with the most sunlight exposure will suffer first.

Another sign is the direct sun could “wash out” the variegation in some cultivars.

You can see some curling of leaves for reasons other than sunburn. The most common are overwatering or underwatering.

Yellowing and browning tips could also be caused by applying too much fertilizer. When the plant gets too much nitrogen from fertilizer, you’ll also notice the stems get spindly and frail. 

6 Steps to Save a Sunburnt Pothos

Generally, a sunburned pothos should be able to recover if you follow the following steps, and it is not too severe. 

1.) Change Locations

First, remove the plant from the location that caused the sunburn. Then, find a better place with bright indirect light. 

If you have no other locations to move the plant to, you can filter the light with sheer curtains or shades that will allow some light to come through, but not too much.

2.) Remove Damaged Leaves & Vines

You’ll want to remove the burnt pothos leaves. As the dead leaves will not recover and look healthy again.

But be careful to remove only a few leaves, as the plant still needs to be able to photosynthesize. 

By removing the damaged leaves, your pothos can focus its energy on developing the healthy parts of the plant. Plus, who wants to look at leaves that have been fried crispy brown.

To remove, sterilize a pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can use rubbing alcohol or a solution of 9 parts of water to 1 part bleach. Give the blades a quick cleaning after each leaf you remove.

If all the leaves on a particular vine are burnt, remove the entire vine. Although, this may create a “bald spot,” which can be filled back in time by propagating new vines.

3.) Inspect Soil & Water or Mist

Exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods can also dry out your plants’ soil. Use your finger to check soil moisture to a depth of 2-3″ inches, or use a moisture meter to probe deeper. 

If the top of the soil looks dried out, and you find no signs of moisture in the soil, then add some water. Adding water will help lower the plants’ stress and recover.

You can also mist the plant to help it cool down and rehydrate.

4.) Increase Shade With Severely Sunburned Pothos Leaves

If your pothos has been severely sunburned, moving it to a shady spot that receives no direct light is best. Making it easier for the plant to recover.

Once you see some healthy new growth, you can move it back to a brighter location with a bit of direct sun.

5.) Air Movement

Often times a burnt pothos will do better with some air movement. It was most likely in a still location with the hot sun beating down on it. 

6.) Ensure Proper Temperature

You’ll want to ensure the pothos is in the correct temperature. These plants thrive in temperatures in the range of 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The plant can also develop brown spots if temperatures get too high or low. Plus, it will put additional stress on the plant and slow healing.

Diseases Causing Yellow & Brown Spots

pothos leaves turning yellow and with leaf spot

If you’ve read this far and think you are doing everything right, bright light, soil, water, and the right amount of fertilizer. And still getting yellow leaves and brown spots, it could be other problems. 

Possible causes include bacterial leaf spot, root rot, bacterial wilt, fungal leaf spot, scale, and more.